Tag Archives: The Carduan Chronicles

Honey Locust Seeds

It’s a funny thing about honey locust seeds. The trees were decorated with the long pods last summer and these are falling to the ground.

One reason the tree is called honey locust is the sweet layer inside the seed pods. My cow Dolly used to stand under the locust trees eating the seed pods. Evidently deer do the same thing as I find piles of droppings. The goats must too.

There are so many pods, there are plenty left on the ground. These are supposed to be seed pods. The funny thing about them is the lack of honey locust seeds in the pods.

honey locust seeds in seedpods
The honey locust seeds should be lined up in these long, thin seedpods. The pods are about a foot long and 1.5 inches wide. I have yet to find the seeds in the pods.

Looking at a pod, the places where seeds are supposed to be is obvious. There are thin oval spots the length of the pod. If you run your fingers down the pods, these places are empty.

Not believing my fingers, I opened a pod. No seeds. I opened several more. No seeds.

There must be honey locust seeds. These trees don’t form colonies of sprouts from their roots, but seedlings are coming up.

honey locust seedling
This honey locust seedling in near a black walnut tree. It is already arming itself as deer and goats find the leaves good to eat.

Another bit of proof the seeds must exist is in my garden. I use lots of goat manure in the garden. The goats eat the seed pods, pass the seeds through and they sprout in the garden.

Every year I pull up dozens of locust seedlings in the garden. There are never any seed pods in the garden so the goats must eat them.

My old copy of “Trees of Missouri” has a photograph of the seeds next to a seed pod. They are oval and would fit well in the places in the pod. Why don’t these pods have seeds in them?

Why am I interested? I am again contemplating “The Carduan Chronicles” and the Carduans use the thorns as weapons. They would be interested in planting more trees near where they will start their colony. Only they need to have some honey locust seeds.

Using Red Cedar Poles

I’ve been using red cedar poles for years. They make great chicken roosts.

The advantages to red cedar include the smell. This does diminish over the years. The tree tends to have a trunk that stays much the same diameter for a long distance . There are usually lot of them in a small area. And they are easy to cut down.

Maybe that last one is a stretch. Red cedar trees are lined with branches. Each branch must be cut off. Many of them are small enough to use loppers instead of a saw.

red cedar poles come from large red cedar trees
Although the tree is called red cedar, it is a juniper. It takes advantage of any open area and can come up in hordes. Few animals eat red cedar. Goats do in the fall and winter, possibly deer as well. The berries are valued by birds like cedar waxwings. It is a good roosting spot for many birds especially in bad weather. However, too many of the trees will kill out competing plants.

Why the sudden interest in red cedar poles? I don’t need any at the moment. That may change as the goats like to browse on them in the winter.

As I write “The Carduan Chronicles,” I realize many of the things easily available to me won’t be to these small survivors. That includes lumber. They do have the wooden crates their supplies are packed in. But that will be all the lumber available.

They want to build things. At the moment shelving is needed to keep kitchen pots and pans and utensil up off the ground. They will need to store food supplies.

red cedar poles for the Carduans
Red cedar saplings tend to have trunks that stay the same diameter for two to three feet. They are about three quarter of an inch in diameter. There is no red center, only white sapwood with lots of resin. Still, they will work as poles for small building projects.

This is where the red cedar poles enter the story. They will make excellent uprights to hold these shelves. Granted that these poles will not have the lovely red centers as such trees are much larger than the Carduans would care to tackle. But the white wood lasts a long time when kept dry and is easy to work with.

The resin might be a problem. But these survivors need to make torches and the resin will work very well. That is, it will once they learn how to start a fire.

Come to think of it, those red cedar poles will work as roof rafters too. Oak might be better, but they don’t know that. Yet.

Read more about Ozark red cedar in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Honey Locust Thorns

Every year honey locust seeds drift into my garden. I pull up dozens of the little trees. Some I reach for and find I have a handful of honey locust thorns.

Some seedlings come up armed with half inch needle thorns. Most do not. The grown trees are the same.

honey locust tree
From a distance a honey locust tree looks like a tree. What sets them apart is the hazy look around the trunk caused by the thorns. Even the thorns don’t keep deer or goats from chewing on the bark so this tree is protected as the goats do value the shade in the summer as a favorite lay up spot in this pasture during hot weather.

Somewhere I read that, although honey locust trees have both male and female flowers on them, some have more female ones. These are the ones covered with thorns. I’m skeptical.

The prize winner of the honey locust thorns was a whopping sixteen inches long. Most are half that. Those on twigs and small branches may be a mere two or three inches long.

thorns make useful tools
Anyone who has ever driven a rubber tire over a honey locust thorn knows they are hard as nails and very sharp. Only trees that have been attacked by deer or goats make huge numbers of long thorns.

Small thorns are generally a single barb pointing up. Longer thorns have side thorns on them. The small ones are the most dangerous.

Honey locust branches are easily broken off, especially when they are small. These barbed booby traps sink down into the grass. The thorns last for years, hard and sharp. Any foot or tire that goes over them may regret it.

small honey locust thorns
This small two inch thorn may not look that fearsome. It will flatten a tractor tire. If you are a four inch tall Carduan, it will be very useful as a weapon. Think about porcupine quills. Not too many would be predators want a mouthful of thorns.

On a honey locust trunk the thorns grow in clusters. The color varies. Old thorns weather into a dull grey. New thorns are shiny reddish brown. Others are intermediate.

Scattered clumps of short thorns adorn a honey locust trunk. Then a deer or a goat comes by and starts nibbling. The number and length of the thorns increases. Some trees end up with their trunks so lined with thorn clusters its hard to see the bark. It does deter the goats.

honey locust thorns
This honey locust hasn’t been bothered much. It has small thorn clusters up to four inches long. The tree is in an old cow pasture that is hayed, but no livestock. If deer browse on the bark, more thorn clusters will appear and the thorns will be much longer. The tree got its name because of the sweet pulp inside its seed pods. The flowers drip with nectar as well and attract lots of insects.

Why the interest in honey locust thorns? As I write “The Carduan Chronicles” I find these small aliens need to defend themselves and hunt for game. These thorns are ideal.

The thorns are hard, sharp, fairly easy to get, come in a variety of lengths. They will definitely discourage a predator that doesn’t want a mouthful of thorns. They can double as a spear to bring down small game animals. Then there are the various other uses: walking stick, digging stick, lever.

Honey locust thorns are very useful indeed.

Wishing For Spring

Winter is arriving in the Ozarks with typical fanfare. A day of seventy degrees is followed by a day of falling temperatures from forty to near freezing. This leaves me wishing for spring.

There are other reasons. The first chapter of “The Carduan Chronicles” won second place in the Arts Rolla writing contest. Definitely incentive to complete this massive mess.

Spring Beauty flowers
Spring Beauty plants are a stalk with two opposite leaves. The top of the stem forms lots of flower buds that open a few at a time. Some petals are nearly white. Others are nearly pink. Most have the pink anthers over pink stripes on white petals.

And there is NaNo – National Novel Writing Month – where I have said I am completing “The Carduan Chronicles” even though I’m not sure it will take another 50,000 words to complete it. As part of bringing the two plots together, I am taking the two ships through one day at a time. And the Ozarks is in spring.

The Carduans are meeting spring flowers like Spring Beauty, Rose Verbena and Toothwort. They are munching on flowers from the Redbud trees. And I am wishing for spring so I can enjoy these flowers with them.

Redbud spring flowers
Flowers are for producing seeds as far as a plant is concerned. They are sources of food for many kinds of insects. Redbud flowers are edible by people with a delicate nutty sweet taste.

I do realize that anyone reading this novel won’t want a daily diary stretching out over fifteen six day weeks. It would get boring quickly. But, since I am melding two plots, I must have a strict timeline so they meet at the proper time.

Knowing much of what I am presently working so hard on will end up cut out of the final novel could be very discouraging. However, I don’t know now what will be cut or merged or summarized as I start the final major rewrite of the novel. The Ozarks in spring is an exciting place to the Carduans.

Rose Verbena plant in bloom
Roadsides and creek banks sport vivid rose pink from early spring to frost in the form of the Rose Verbena.

These little aliens have few flowers on their home planet Arkosa. They are amazed at the ones they see. They are searching for food. Do you know which wild plants are edible? I am learning. They must find small creatures to kill for meat and face the necessity of killing their own meat.

Then there are dangers. The snakes are coming out for the warm seasons. Four inch tall Carduans are tasty morsels or are they? How do you protect yourself?

Still, in spite of all the regular plot and events happening, it is the arrival of spring I enjoy most. I am wishing for spring and savoring each description I include in my writing.

What else might the Carduans discover? Check out “Exploring the Ozark Hills” for clues.

February Ice Storm

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. Most likely it has no relation at all. However a February ice storm came by.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the space ship arrives in the middle of a February ice storm.

February ice storm coats everything
Ice coats this old log. It isn’t thick, but don’t step on it. Your foot will slide off possible making you fall. Such a coating was on the landing site for the Carduans. Thrill ride anyone?

This year’s February ice storm wasn’t much. It heralded a warm front coming in. About a quarter of an inch of freezing rain covered everything. During the day the ice melted and rain began.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the ice storm drops a half inch of ice as a cold front moves in. The sun does come out and melt the ice off the trees. This is typical of such storms in the Ozarks. And that’s a very good thing.

That quarter of an inch of ice is treacherous. Any surface becomes slick. Walking is asking to fall and get hurt. Driving is not advisable from my house as the hills will be too slick for even four wheel drive to conquer.

February ice storm encases tree twigs and branches
Twigs and branches sport an ice coating. This coating is thin. When the coating is a quarter of an inch thick, sunlight will sparkle through it making the trees into crystal structures. The thin coating will try to do this, but melted too soon this time.

There are drivers who believe four wheel drive makes any winter road passable. Ice removes all friction between the road and the tires. Without friction, the vehicle slides no matter how many tires are trying to find traction. I would rather stay home than slide off the road and twenty or thirty feet down into the creek bed.

February ice storm creates frozen drops
An ice storm is freezing rain. It falls as very cold rain that freezes on everything. This milkweed pod has an ice coating with more dripping off as frozen drops. These can get fairly long as new drops add onto the frozen ones already there.

The grass stuck up through the ice and made walking possible. The goats do need milking, hay and water, ice or no ice. The chickens need food and water. And I want those eggs and milk.

A February ice storm can be destructive. The ice is heavy and can break off branches, bend small trees to the ground or snap them off and break electric lines. This little storm did little damage.

Instead the storm set the mood as I work my way slowly through the first rewrite of “The Carduan Chronicles.” In that the ice storm is followed by snow. There is snow in the forecast. I wonder.